Delving into Dungeon in a Box

Dungeon in a Box is a monthly subscription service which bills itself as a complete package of materials to run a D&D 5th Edition adventure. The box includes an adventure and a variety of accessories to go with it. The modules are designed to work as standalone games, but if you subscribe monthly, the adventures work together to build an overall, year-long narrative. Downloadable digital content helps provide connective material to create an epic quest.

What’s in the Box

When you subscribe, you receive the first adventure box in that year’s cycle. The box I received contained the following:

Adventure Booklet

Secrets of the Greenwold: Caravan of Peril is the first adventure in the cycle. It is designed to take 1st-level characters up to Level 2. The 24-page booklet includes:

  • a caravan generator table, which helps you determine the makeup of the caravan
  • a stat block and background for an important NPC
  • several suggestions for random encounters the caravan may experience, ranked by difficulty
  • stats for monsters
  • magic items and other treasure
  • information about the terrain
  • a multi-part encounter
  • suggestions for how to scale the adventure for characters up to Level 10
The adventure is a fairly typical, but well-constructed, first-level module. It may be best-suited to new DMs who are learning how to run games, but it’s a fun and easy way to get a game together with minimal prep time. Even if you choose not to run the whole adventure as published, it is full of good elements that may be useful to almost any DM in need of inspiration and short on time.

Encounter Map

The 18” x 24” map of the Caravan Camp location from the adventure is double-sided. One side shows the caravans, a campfire, and other location features for easy setup. The other side shows only the generic ground without other objects, so you can add your own minis and terrain pieces when running this adventure, or keep it to use in future games.

Legacy Stickers and Tracker

The tracker helps document the party’s progress through the year-long cycle of adventures. The DM can make notes on the tracker, and stickers are provided to indicate the outcome of each adventure’s major encounter, such as whether a mission objective was completed.

Terrain Tiles

An envelope containing several double-sided tiles lets you further customize your encounter map and represent changes in the terrain. For instance, you can add objects such as a horse or spilled treasure, or indicate a damaged caravan.

Flat Plastic Minis

The monsters you need for the main encounter, plus an NPC and a creature for one of the possible random encounters, are represented in two-dimensional form. Punch out these minis from the plastic sheet and insert them into the included bases. They are printed on two sides, showing the character’s front and back, so you easily can show which direction the character is facing.

Random Miniatures

Each box comes with two random premium miniatures. They are not necessarily related to the specific adventure, but are meant to be helpful additions to your mini collection. My box included a human fighter and a bugbear from the Reaper Bones line.

Subscription Packages

A single month’s subscription costs $26, but if you subscribe to one of the multi-month packages, the average price of each box decreases. The contents of each box are the same regardless of the tier, though the 12-month subscription includes an extra adventure. Four tiers are offered:

  • 1 month: $26
  • 3 months: $75 ($25 per month)
  • 6 months: $144 ($24 per month)
  • 12 months: $270 ($22.50 per month; includes a bonus 13th adventure)
Shipping is an additional cost. Unfortunately, international shipping for the box is very expensive, so it is only provided upon special request.

Conclusion

If you’re a veteran DM who’s heavy into homebrew and owns a house full of D&D accessories, Dungeon in a Box may be less useful to you. But if you want to run a monthly game for your group without committing a lot of time to preparation, or are just getting started as a DM, Dungeon in a Box offers a helpful toolkit. I think it would make an especially great gift for a family that wants to learn to play D&D together. There’s no need to track down special items to run a fully realized adventure, and the nicely constructed module provides a good example of what a DM might need to create on their own for a game if they want to try their hand at homebrew later. Conveniently, almost everything in the box could be reused in other games.

For more details and subscription information, visit DungeoninaBox.com.

This article was contributed by Annie Bulloch as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
 

Comments

collin

Explorer
Very interesting. And given all that comes with it, I think the price-point is quite reasonable.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
A yearly subscription to this, including shipping, in the U.S. looks to be maybe only two or three dollars or higher than a Paizo Adventure Path (my last subscription from Paizo was about $27.00/month with shipping, and this would be about $30 to me). On the plus side, you can quit a Paizo subscription at any time, and to get the discounted rate for this you have to buy a year in advance.

However, knowing nothing of the quality, I can't say one way or another if it's worth it, but on paper it looks like a very reasonable value for the materials you get.
 
Sigh, i wish there were companies producing stuff like this here in the UK or even europe, the shipping kills off any worth with this kind of 'Crate' subscriptions
 

Burnside

Explorer
Really good idea for a product, and the price point seems reasonable for what's included. I will give it a shot. Hope the actual adventures are strong.
 

Ristamar

Explorer
The guy behind this venture, David Crennen, was the DM for the Crit Juice podcast (parts of the site and the podcasts are NSFW). I believe Dungeon in a Box failed as a Kickstarter before he struck out on his own.

There are some videos on YouTube with in depth looks at the content of one of the first boxes and they and they all seem favorable. He had also streamed some of the adventures on Twitch. I hope this works out for him.
 
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As noted above, international shipping really hurts for something like this. Still, it's a cool concept for a product.

That said, something like this is really dependent on the quality of the adventure, which makes it hard to judge from any distance. :)
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Consider some long-time gamers have clamored for box sets to return, over the past few years they HAVE BEEN -- just as premium products. :)
 

pogre

Adventurer
The guy behind this venture, David Crennen, was the DM for the Crit Juice podcast (parts of the site and the podcasts are NSFW). I believe Dungeon in a Box failed as a Kickstarter before he struck out on his own.
Just to clarify: The reason it was pulled from Kickstarter is late in the campaign they informed him it did not comply with Kickstarter guidelines. Specifically, everything in the Kickstarter must be manufactured by the sponsor and he was providing miniatures from other companies as part of the box.

I love this idea and the price is reasonable, but everything except the adventure would get no use from me. I have tons of terrain and minis and do not use stand-ups or printed encounter maps. I'm tempted to buy a subscription for one of my sons though.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Looks like a nice product if you're just getting started. I have tons of minis and maps already, and I run the official campaigns, so I wouldn't use this.
 

Burnside

Explorer
I got a three-month sub to this and received the first package last week.

Thoughts:

PROS

- Overall, the quality of the materials is very good to excellent, especially at this price point. The first box included two minis, 11 flat plastic pawns with bases, two very nice full color battle maps (one printed on the back of the other), a large campaign map (monochrome, but lovely and looks like it could exist in the game world), the adventure booklet (full color, glossy, quite nice), and a couple of hand-out cards that work much like AL story awards.

- The adventure itself is very solid, if a little bit basic and standard. Guard the caravan during its route. An quick intro, a description of some of the wagons and NPCs that could be part of the caravan (with some very amusing/original ideas), fleshed-out random encounter and terrain tables, culminating in a detailed pair of climactic encounters.

CONS

- Doesn't quite live up to one of the main selling points, in that everything you need for the adventure is not, in fact, in the box. Due to the choice of using the tried-and-true "guard the caravan" plot, the adventure is actually a bit sprawling in scope. The plastic pawns and battle maps provided cover only what's needed for the two climactic encounters - for all of the random encounters included (which actually comprise the bulk of the adventure), you'll need to supply your own materials. Similarly, why not include stat blocks for the SRD monsters and NPCs? it would be perfectly legal to do so, and would save the DM prep time and page flipping.

- The minis included have nothing to do with the adventure (although the flat plastic pawns do). The creators are totally up front about this being the case, but it seems bizarre. I received a mini of a wall of ice, and a second blister pack with three skeleton warriors. I mean, I can always use a few more skeleton warriors in general, but it seems like a no-brainer that the included minis should be featured in the adventure. If they're not in the adventure, why include them at all? The plastic pawns are fine. Leave the minis out and shave a few bucks off the price.

- The site claims that there are "pages of digital content" available to subscribers to help link the monthly adventures together into a campaign. If such pages exist, I can't find them.
 
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guachi

Visitor
It looks fun and interesting. I actually wish I could have them every other month. So maybe just get six months and then cancel.

Thanks for the shout out.
 

Burnside

Explorer
I received the second installment of this a few days ago; figured I'd continue to review.

PROS

- Again, the quality of the materials is great for the money, and I can easily see myself re-using elements of it. Two more very nice and large full color battle maps - one city street and one interior of an inn with plenty of tiles to use to re-dress them for various scenes. Thanks to the tiles, I actually think you could use the city street battle map for most of the random encounters here.

- While the adventure in box one was solid, this second one is better. It's a city-based adventure offering multiple possible encounters across three neighborhoods, then eventually funnels into a series of climactic set-pieces. It's enough of a sandbox to be fun and allow player agency, but still limited enough in scope to be easy to prep. So far, I would be more enthusiastic about running this campaign than Waterdeep: Dragon Heist (and there are some similarities; this is more coherent). One set-piece does rely on 5E's dubious chase rules, but I've long since replaced those with somebody's more fun homebrew rules.

- Twelve flat plastic minis with bases that relate to the adventure, and three Reaper minis that don't at all. Again, it would be better if the minis represented characters and monsters in the adventure. Still, I can't really complain as this month's box featured an extra mini (I got a female human rogue, female human sorcerer, and six giant rats). I'm sure I'll get use out of them at some point (especially the rats - I didn't previously have any, and of course they're in lots of adventures).

CONS

- Again, they really shouldn't make the "everything you need for the adventure is in the box" claim in their marketing. it just isn't. Like the previous adventure, the bulk of the action for the first half or so relies on (well-done) random encounters, and they couldn't possibly include everything you'd need for all of them.

-Which brings me to an interesting point about these first two adventures. Something that struck me in reading them is that they seem like they would lend themselves really well to being run theater of the mind. As if they have a writer who does really good TOtM adventures, but they've got him working on this concept product where the hook is that you get the battle maps and pawns. Anyway, next month looks to be the first dungeon crawl of the campaign. It will be interesting to see if it still leans heavily on random encounter tables, because if you wanted to you really COULD put everything needed for a one-shot dungeon in one of these boxes (especially if the minis were featured in the adventure).

- This is inconsequential, but every adventure includes these little AL-style story award stickers that come in "secret envelopes". The stickers were there, but just loose in the box this month - no secret envelopes (which are unnecessary anyway).

- The adventures are marketed as forming an episodic story, but also capable of being run as stand-alone pieces if you're not doing the whole campaign. I don't see how that's the case with this episode. The beginning would be awkward if the players were not familiar with a key NPC from the previous adventure, and the ending is a total cliffhanger for next month. The story is interesting enough that I think most people would enjoy the continuing series, but again this strikes me as inaccurate marketing. As a stand-alone one-shot this month's adventure would not work.

OVERALL
Next month will be the final installment of my three-month trial with this. I'm on the fence about continuing, but leaning towards yes. On the whole, there are problems here that have to do with the actual product not always fitting the advertised concept of what Dungeon in a Box is "supposed" to be. But the bottom line is that the quality of both the adventures and the included support materials are strong and the price is fair. I hope that in time they'll refine this product to make the most of a great concept and really get the adventure and the accessories totally in sync, or else dial back some of the inaccurate marketing.
 
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